Reason’s Season

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

‘The seventeenth century is a very special period in human history,’ says A C Grayling on the opening page of The Age of Genius. ‘It is in fact the epoch in the history of the human mind.’ This is quite a claim, and Grayling goes about supporting it in rather an unusual way. Instead of […]

Farewell to Arms

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

It was in the Spanish Civil War that Martha Gellhorn famously declared that, as a reporter, she did not believe in ‘all that objectivity shit’. She had come to Spain with Hemingway and, like him, saw her role as supporting the Republicans in a vain attempt to force Roosevelt and the Western powers to lift […]

Power to the People

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

Australian historians have a well-established reputation in French revolutionary studies, and nowadays Peter McPhee is indisputably their leader in the field. This is his second survey of the French Revolution. Since the publication of its much shorter predecessor fourteen years ago, he has edited a wide-ranging companion bringing together the insights of many leading authorities. […]

Enlightening Words

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

‘When a learned man dies, a great deal of learning dies with him,’ reflected Blair Worden after Hugh Trevor-Roper’s death in 2003. It is a melancholy thought. Trevor-Roper was a learned man nonpareil. His erudition was profound, he was interested in a great many things and he presented his ideas and insights with unrivalled style […]

Son of Mann

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

What do you do if your son, who has grown up with privileges you have enabled, behaves in a way that threatens not only his own wellbeing but also that of your family? This question lurks behind Frederic Spotts’s febrile, compulsive account of the career of Thomas Mann’s talented, wayward and depressive eldest son, Klaus, […]

The Prometheus of Modern Times

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

There are three Benjamin Franklins: the American, the British and the French. The first and the last are famous, the second forgotten. The American Franklin is a curious hybrid, conceived in the image of the American Revolution: the Founding Father as common man. The folksy tinkerer builds the American Enlightenment in his shed; the conductor […]

Sorrowing in Sunlight

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

The former editor of the Times Literary Supplement Alan Pryce-Jones (1908–2000) makes several fleeting appearances in Anthony Powell’s journals from the mid-1980s – zestful, wordly and apparently modelling himself on Dorian Gray. Meeting him in June 1982, Powell thought the sprightly pensioner ‘at most perhaps in his late fifties, hair slightly grey, immensely spruce, full […]

Magic in Miniature

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

B N Goswamy is an excellent and lively writer who combines considerable erudition with an ability to spin stories. The Spirit of Indian Painting, reminiscent of Neil MacGregor’s A History of the World in 100 Objects, presents 101 pictures produced in the Indian subcontinent over almost a millennium, introducing us to what he calls a ‘multi-layered […]

Career Spikes

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

Bernard Buffet (1928–99) is the only artist I have ever envied, and that was at a time when I was wavering over becoming one myself. We were born in the same year and we were both educated by the Jesuits, who at that time still encouraged vaulting ambition. He got himself expelled from the smart […]

Play It Again, Ma’am

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

This stimulating and engaging book, written with passionate enthusiasm and a light touch, addresses one aspect of a contentious cultural quandary: why is it that women seem to have created and achieved so much less than men in the arts? Anna Beer focuses on the field of Western ‘classical’ music, in which male domination remains […]

Beware the Shoe Removers

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

Edward Dusinberre is first violinist of the Takács Quartet. In these elegant memoirs he reflects on a life spent in this small community, nourished and challenged by Beethoven’s sixteen string quartets. Dusinberre was the first non-Hungarian in the group, joining it in 1993 as a 25-year-old graduate of the Juilliard School. He had little professional […]

Hither & Zither

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

Michael Church, music critic of The Independent, has long been fascinated by what has variously been called ‘world music’, ‘non-Western music’, ‘ethnic music’ and ‘traditional music’. In this book he has assembled a set of stylish and scholarly essays by fifteen experts to argue the case that these bodies of music should be considered as […]

Tomorrow’s World

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

The future is a moving target. It takes a bold author to aim for it, particularly using the unwieldy weapon of dead-tree media. Alec Ross, a veteran of Barack Obama’s election campaign and the State Department under Hillary Clinton, is just such an author. His first book concerns the emerging technologies that will spawn the […]

Everyday People

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

Did your mother drink during pregnancy? Did your parents divorce? How often were you read to as a child? Did you pass your 11 Plus? What about your DNA? If you ever wondered whether the circumstances of your early life steered you along a particular path, look no further than this book. In it, science […]

State of Unrest

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

The recent discovery outside Cairo of the body of the Italian academic Giulio Regeni, believed to have been tortured and killed by the security services, alerted the world to something Egyptians were already well aware of: human rights and democracy are in an even worse state under President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s rule than they were […]

Unhappy Valley

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

Since Nepal opened its borders to the outside world in 1951, Western travellers to the ancient Himalayan capital, Kathmandu, have chased notions of a long-lost Shangri-La. Even now, sixty-five years on, as environmental chaos, a rocketing population and galloping urban sprawl envelop the emerald valley in which the city lies, it is possible to choose […]

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